Entertainment Stage Mormons use scandalous musical The Book of Mormon to promote religion

Mormons use scandalous musical The Book of Mormon to promote religion

The cast of the Australian production of The Book of Mormon, which opens in Melbourne on February 4. Photo: Jeff Busby
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In a surprising move, the Mormon church is using satirical musical The Book of Mormon to promote the religion in Australia, despite its offensive, blasphemous content.

Less than 48 hours before the Australian premiere of the hit Broadway musical in Melbourne, Australian Mormons took to the streets to make the most of the hype.

With billboards plastering major train stations in Melbourne’s CBD and a ‘pop-up’ Mormon stand in Federation Square, the religion appears to be seizing on the cross-promotional opportunity the musical has provided.

All this despite the fact The Book of Mormon is a deeply satirical, politically incorrect take on the genesis story of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“They love it,” a spokesperson for the production told The New Daily, claiming Mormons around the world had already “embraced” the satire.

However, local Mormons said otherwise, saying they didn’t necessarily need to “watch the car crash”.

The musical follows two young Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda to baptise the local people.

Instead, they must contend with poverty, AIDS and a rampaging warlord.

The musical features excessive foul language, sexual themes, explicit jokes about homosexuality (which is outlawed by the church) and extreme blasphemy.

Watch the original cast perform on Broadway

‘I don’t have an interest in seeing it’: Mormon leader

Former US gymnast and Olympic gold medalist, President Peter Vidmar, head of the Australia Melbourne Mission, spoke to The New Daily in an exclusive interview.

“I don’t have an interest in seeing it,” said the devout father-of-five, who is in Australia on a three-year assignment to look after a cohort of 126 young Mormon missionaries.

“The Mormons I know haven’t seen it.”

However, he said the 126,000 Mormons living in Australia were not offended by the musical and the billboards on display across Melbourne were merely a way to show Mormonism in a “positive light”.

On Thursday, four young American Mormon Sisters and Elders gathered at a ‘pop-up’ Mormon stand at Federation Square ahead of Saturday’s premiere at The Princess Theatre.

While the fair-haired sisters, in simple dress and ballet flats, handed out leaflets about “lighting the world” to passers by, young missionary Elder Norby shared his thoughts on the production with The New Daily.

“Whenever the play [opens], we’ve been doing a similar thing in those places, I’ve been told,” Elder Norby said.

“I wasn’t there when it happened [in New York].”

American Mormons spreading the word in Federation Square, Melbourne. Photo: Louise Talbot/The New Daily
American Mormons spreading the word in Melbourne’s Federation Square. Photo: Louise Talbot/The New Daily

Elder Norby said he had no plans to see the musical – where the F-word and God are mentioned in the same sentence – instead remaining focussed on “doing missionary work”.

“From what I’ve heard … it sounds like it makes fun of our Church a lot so I’m not super interested in seeing it. That’s my take on it,” he said.

“I am here as a missionary today and since you ask about the play and what our reaction was, we’ve been trying to bring more awareness about the Book of Mormon and what’s in it.”

They kill you with kindness

The show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who also brought us the irreverent South Park, are not surprised the church is capitalising on the stage show.

“That’s exactly what Mormons do. They are so smart and they kill you with kindness,” Parker told Channel 10’s The Project on Thursday night.

“In New York they actually took out ads in the playbill, so they are paying us for the ads,” he said. “And the ads are like, ‘Hey, you’ve seen the show. Now read the book’.

For me it’s been a lifelong thing and going, ‘wow, these people are really nice. Maybe I should be one of them’.”

President Vidmar said faithful Mormons living in Australia “probably wouldn’t be interested” in seeing the musical as he helped to debunk some of the myths around the US’s only homegrown religion.

There are rules for the faithful including no tea, no coffee, no alcohol, no sex before marriage and the expectation that 10 per cent of one’s earnings be donated back to the Church.

“That’s our basic fundamental beliefs and that is rooted in the belief of Jesus Christ. He is the saviour of the world and we share his Gospel among everyone we meet who has an interest.”

“We look at this as an opportunity,” he added.

“The writers of the play have done a great service to us and so that’s why we’re here to share our message.”

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